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7 must-try food and drink in Georgia

Due to Georgia’s short, mild summers and long, harsh winters, eating here is designed for sustenance; to help fuel walks in the mountains and long days in the fields. This is comfort food at its best. Here are seven tasty treats you shouldn’t miss.
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1. Khachapuri

The so-called ‘national dish’ of Georgia, khachapuri is the perfect winter warmer. This traditional leavened bread is canoe-like in shape, with gooey melted sulgani cheese baked into the middle, then topped with chunks of butter and an egg cracked onto the top. It’s ubiquitous across Georgia and can be found at most hole-in-the-wall bakeries and restaurants. Each region has its own twist with vegetables or different meats, so you’ll just have to try them all!

2. Churchkhela

Though they look like sausages, these curiously colourful sweets are made from walnuts with concentrated grape juice left over from the annual wine harvest. Each layer is left to dry until the whole strand is enveloped in a dry, waxy crust – tastier than it sounds. You’ll see churchkhela for sale everywhere on the side of the road and they’re considered a staple of Georgian cuisine, even being taken to war by Georgian soldiers as a boost of protein (and plenty of sugar).

3. Pkhali

During Soviet rule, meat was a pricey ingredient reserved for special occasions, so the enterprising Georgians developed their own vegetarian recipes that could be made with whatever was fresh and seasonal. Phkali salads are a stalwart of Georgian cooking. They’re probably best described as vegetable pâtés – carrot, beetroot or spinach is boiled and then puréed with lemon juice, garlic and walnuts, and served over bread. It’s common to see several types served side-by-side, scattered with pomegranate seeds.

4. Kharcho

In the winter months, steaming bowls of kharcho are served in most restaurants. This stew varies a little by region, but most kharcho begins with seasoned chicken or beef cooked in a casserole of garlic, Georgian spices, coriander and walnuts. You might find it soured with pieces of tklapi – a fruit roll-up made from tart cherries or plums – and served alongside baskets of chewy shoti bread, which is used to mop up the juices.

5. Mtsvadi

Far removed from anything you’ll find in the local kebab house, mtsvadi are a Georgian variation of shashlik – meat impaled on a stick and cooked over an open flame. Mtsvadi are different to Turkish and Armenian variations and usually just seasoned with salt before being flame grilled and served with a heavy-handed dollop of tkemali, a sour plum sauce that is served over everything from potatoes to fried chicken.

6. Khinkali

Making the Georgian soup dumpling khinkali is an art form – experienced cooks will tell you that any fewer than 20 folds is the work of an amateur - but when faced with a plate piled with these slippery, meat-broth-filled parcels you’ll find yourself too distracted by the delicious aromas to count them. Eating khinkali has a specific set of rules too: they’re finger foods, with the little knot at the top used for lifting them. You then bite a hole in the side in order to slurp out the soup before eating the rest of the dumpling, discarding the knot.

7. Amber wine

Amber wine is produced throughout Eurasia, but the Georgian variations are widely regarded as the best. Just don’t call it ‘orange’ wine! Purists will tell you that the ancient techniques first forged in the Caucasus Mountains yield beautifully amber-coloured wines, which are made with white wines aged on the grape skins in the way that most red wines are made. This preserves the colour and fruity aromas, making them ideal wines to pair with hearty Georgian dishes. In the traditional way, the wines are aged underground in qvevri, large clay vessels, which are then brought up to the surface for bottling in the spring.

 

Did we make you feel hungry?

Tuck in to lip-smacking Georgian cuisine on a holiday to Georgia, where sampling the local food and drink is an integral part of our trips. Not only will you have time to dine on delicious traditional dishes, you’ll also get the chance to make your own khinkhali dumplings on our Cycling in Georgia holiday, or learn about the winemaking process using qvevris on our Discover Georgia trip.
View all Georgia trips

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